Book review: The Wellness Garden by Shawna Coronado.

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Shawna Coronado – The Wellness Garden (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota)

I actually wrote an article about this topic for Herb Quarterly magazine this year (“Designing a Wellness Garden,” Fall 2017), but of course, my measly two thousand words doesn’t even come close to encapsulating all of the immense detail and information Shawna Coronado has gathered for her book The Wellness Garden: Grow, Eat, and Walk Your Way to Better Health. I hugely enjoyed researching what are sometimes termed “welltality” gardens for my article – there are many facets to these types of designs, where healing, rejuvenation, and healthy maintenance of the whole body and mind is emphasized.

Shawna Coronado’s fight against her own chronic illness and pain was the inspiration behind The Wellness Garden; despite suffering from osteoarthritis, she didn’t stop gardening when the pain became too much.  She realized the benefits of being outdoors, of keeping active, and of tending and harvesting her own healthy food crops – and the point of her book is to encourage others to turn to (or keep on!) gardening as a way to cope and heal and stay fit and focused (and more positive!) in the face of illnesses such as arthritis and depression.  Gorgeously presented, thorough (and thoughtful) research, and meaningful, practical solutions make The Wellness Garden a stand-out: Coronado covers everything from fragrance/sensory and therapeutic garden designs, to selecting and growing nutrient- and vitamin-packed edibles (including tips for composting and boosting soil health), and choosing and using ergonomic, safe, and appropriate garden tools that don’t stress the body.  The second part of the book is specifically devoted to fitness: walking outdoors, and yoga practice (as well as breathing exercises), meant to be undertaken in the garden.  Frequent interaction with nature is key, as there is no doubt about the benefits of being outdoors and the way it elevates mood and well-being.  This valuable book will inspire you to get out there and enjoy your garden even more!

*Quarto Publishing generously provided me with a review copy of The Wellness Garden, but as always, my opinions are 100 percent my own.

Book review: Container Gardening Complete by Jessica Walliser.

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Jessica Walliser – Container Gardening Complete: Creative Projects for Growing Vegetables and Flowers in Small Spaces (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc.)

If you’ve followed Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know I recently moved and had to give up my in-ground garden beds. Besides caring for my hastily-planned and planted plot at the community garden in my new neighbourhood, I didn’t do any gardening this summer, but for next year, I’m hoping to set up a small balcony garden in our new home.  Container gardening isn’t something I’ve done a huge amount of in the past, so I am particularly excited about Jessica Walliser’s new book. As “complete” as its title suggests, Container Gardening Complete is a goldmine of excellent information, from the design and sowing of a wide range of plant selections (perennials, annuals, vegetables, fruit, even trees and shrubs), to cultivation and harvest and dealing with potential pest and disease issues.  Suggestions and detailed directions for the creation of themed and seasonal container designs are concentrated in the back half of the book and are guaranteed to inspire.  A clean, attractive layout, beautiful photos, and above all, clear, precise, and useful information from a knowledgeable expert make this book a fantastic resource for anyone interested in container gardening – whether you’re just getting started, or have a bit of experience under your belt.

*Quarto Publishing generously provided me with a review copy of Container Gardening Complete, but my opinions of the book are 100 percent my own and honest.

Book review: House Plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.

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House Plants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants

By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf (Cool Springs Press, 2017)

Throwing millennials and houseplants together seems to be a thing in the media these days; this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) article from The Washington Post is only one example of many that I’ve come across lately.  One glance at the racks in your local garden centre will tell you that indoor gardening is indeed experiencing a resurgence – for everyone’s benefit!  There are so many more plant selections available, and not just the succulents and air plants that have been trendy for the past few years.  Looking after houseplants is meditative, nourishing, and just plain enjoyable, but only if you know what you’re doing.

That’s what Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book is for: to help you succeed with your growing endeavours.  In House Plants, Steinkopf (thehouseplantguru.com) thoroughly and precisely covers every detail: soil, water, light, containers, siting, propagation, and troubleshooting pests and diseases.  Her advice is practical and easy to understand, even for those just getting into the hobby – this is a book that will definitely inspire confidence when it comes to keeping houseplants.  (The chapter on propagation particularly impressed me, with its clear directions and accompanying photography).  Indoor gardeners will appreciate that she even touches briefly on bonsai, topiary, living walls, water plants, and holiday plants, as these somewhat specialty niches become more mainstream.

Of course, it’s truly the more than 125 profiles of houseplants that attracted me most to the book…I feel like I now have a goal to try them all at some point (don’t tell my hubby!).  I love the fact that individual plants are categorized according to their difficulty of cultivation and maintenance (again, this gives me something to work towards!).  From ferns to figs to palms, orchids, and dracaena – it’s all here and each one is beautifully photographed to aid in identification.  Comprehensive, useful, and a delight to pore through, this really is the “complete guide” to houseplants!

 

(Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book House Plants by Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group. All opinions are 100 percent my own.  Heck, 300 percent my own).

Flowery Friday, April blog fun – and a Book review: Mother Earth News Almanac.

April is here!  That means we might just get a bit of rain in Calgary…and maybe some cherry blossoms (if they don’t freeze off).  And tulips (if the rabbits and deer don’t eat them first).  Clearly, a month of “if’s”….

Typical spring.  😉

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My favourite furry flower, Pulsatilla patens – Nose Hill, Calgary, 28 March 2016

I spent the month of March doing more researching and querying than actual writing, and while I was busy with that, my e-mails collectively undertook a massive construction project that is now approaching monument status…we’re talking the Egyptian pyramids or something of that ilk. So I maybe need to do something about that this upcoming week. Ahem.

And I’ve been spring cleaning and organizing!  I mean, moving files and piles around.  No, seriously, I’m actually making a tiny dent, even though it might be NEXT spring when I see truly decent results.  But just the small amount I’ve done so far is refreshing.

Speaking of files, here are a few interesting things I came across this past month:

  • A snowy owl speculates on landing a coveted modelling gig – yep, you read that right.  Go here.  You’ll love the rest of Lyle Krahn’s blog, too – nothing better than fantastic wildlife photos combined with a wonderful sense of humour!
  • A profile of the life and work of Felicitas Svejda, the geneticist responsible for the breeding of the hardy Explorer roses.  Canadians who grow roses owe much to her dedication and passion for plants that could survive our crazy winters and short growing season.
  • Photographer Beth Moon’s portraits of the world’s most ancient trees are absolutely incredible.  Head over to the gallery and enjoy.
  • Take a look at  some samples from Saxon Holt’s fledgling Photo Florilegium project.

I’ve been posting some items elsewhere:

Finally, this was a really fun book to read for review – I started out randomly flipping through the pages but then had to chow down on it cover-to-cover.  Now, ask me something….

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Mother Earth News Almanac:  A Guide Through the Seasons (2016, Voyageur Press, Minneapolis) 

Whether you’re a modern homesteader or an urban DIY-er, you’ll find a useful tip or hundreds in the Mother Earth News Almanac (2016).  Want to know something about natural pest control?  How to build a stove out of an aluminium can?  Need recipes for popcorn balls or cherry preserves or tips on how to sour cream or sprout seeds for eating?  What about sinking fence posts or cobbling together a working substitute for a broken cotter pin?  Whether it’s raising livestock (or cats), making crafts, foraging for wild foods, or constructing, you name the topic – you’ll probably find something new and interesting about it in this book.  The entries are concise and informative, divided into categories based upon the seasons of the year, and the book is illustrated throughout with black ink line drawings, diagrams, and tables.  Fascinating and practical lifestyle hacks for everyone!

(* Many thanks to Voyageur Press for providing a copy of this title for review. I did not receive any compensation for my opinion, which is my own).

 

What are you most looking forward to this month?

Book reviews: Water-Smart Gardening and High-Value Veggies.

It’s officially spring! (I’d put a few more exclamation points in there, but I side with many grammarians who believe that as a punctuation mark, they’re utterly overused. Everyone is really excited these days, apparently). But, hey, spring!

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So…although I can’t really do much in the garden just yet except contrive methods of humane squirrel discouragement (why oh why do they have to be so adorable?), I’ve been doing a lot of reading about gardening. There are plenty of new books on the subject being published right about now, and here are two interesting and very relevant titles from Cool Springs Press:

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Water-Smart Gardening:  Save Water, Save Money, and Grow the Garden You Want by Diana Maranhao

I was particularly keen on this title because we just came out of the driest winter I can remember. While it was nice not to have to worry about breaking a wrist from falling on an icy, snow-covered sidewalk, it wasn’t the best situation for the plants. (The verdict is still out whether or not all my perennials made it. And I was recently talking to a fellow gardener at the community garden and she figured that the warm temperatures and lack of snow cover caused some of her fall-planted garlic to rot. I’m so glad I took a cue from last year’s garlic disaster and hadn’t planted any).

Last summer and autumn were hot and dry as well, and there’s no telling how our summer will round out this year. It could be very tricky to keep the plants going. Making sure supplemental irrigation is available has always been a necessity on the Prairies, for farmers and gardeners alike, but what if we have government-imposed water restrictions? Many jurisdictions are forced to go this route when water supply is stretched. As author Maranhao comments, drought is becoming a big issue world-wide, but no one seems to be doing anything concrete about it. This book is her solution to gardening successfully with low water use, and she has all sorts of solid, practical (and often creative) ideas about what to do. She covers plant selection (with a focus on zonal plantings), growing in microclimates, soil health, best planting/cultivation practices, and of course, a host of smart irrigation practices including swales, rain barrels, and in-ground and drip systems.

Maranhao’s most important advice?  “Garden within your environment.” I’m totally with her on that!

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High-Value Veggies: Homegrown Produce Ranked by Value by Mel Bartholomew 

You all know Bartholmew as the creator of square foot gardening, but I must admit I was rather more excited by this book than any others he’s previously written. The concept behind High-Value Veggies is that many of us tend to grow vegetables in our gardens that are already mass-produced and inexpensively-purchased at the grocery stores or local markets. His suggestion is that we abandon the idea of growing those “low-value” crops and instead focus on the ones that are really pricey to buy. He proceeds to break it all down by inputs (tools and equipment, amendments, irrigation) as well as the cost of land and labour and then stacks them up against the potential return on investment (U.S. stats, but likely fairly translatable in Canada and possibly Europe). All of this yields (pun intended) a top ten list of plant selections that Bartholomew profiles in more detail. There are definitely some edible plants that make more economical sense to grow than others!

I was thinking about this in terms of my community garden plot. The restrictions of space mean I need to choose which crops I plant very carefully every year, and although I may not have specifically thought about return on investment, I know I don’t always grow plants that I can buy for a reasonable price from local growers at the farmers’ market.  Bartholomew’s suggestions are seriously worth considering before the seeds are purchased for the year – and it doesn’t matter what scale of gardening you’re doing.

 

*Many thanks to Cool Springs Press for providing copies of these new titles for review. I did not receive any compensation for my opinions, which are my own.

Gardening books for children.

I recently wrote an article about gardening with children and I couldn’t help myself, I had to add in a bit about reading and books. The two activities truly go hand-in-hand!

The community garden I have a membership with has worked for many years in conjunction with the nearby library branch (that I just so happen to be employed at) to hold story time programs in the summer months. One of the library assistants takes a bunch of books out to the garden on a mid-week morning and children from all over the community and beyond gather with their parents and other family members to listen. Needless to say, it is a very well-received program!

Alberta-based writer/speaker/blogger April Demes published a fantastic post last spring about her favourite gardening books for children – you can check it out here. I have a few other titles to add:

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April Pulley Sayre – Rah, Rah, Radishes!  (I previously mentioned it here).

and Go, Go, Grapes!

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Fresh veggies and fruit have never been so much fun. I love the illustrations, too – they’re bold and bright and eye-catching.

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Stefan Page – We’re Going to the Farmers’ Market

This board book for the very young is the perfect introduction to an outing at the market and all the delicious produce you can find there.

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Kadir Nelson – If You Plant a Seed

There aren’t many words in this book, but they’re chosen with a powerful message in mind. This is less a book about gardening than it is about consideration and kindness. Nelson’s paintings are absolutely incredible – a real must-see.

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Julie Fogliano – And Then It’s Spring

Sweet, soft, and inviting.  Like spring should be, but often isn’t.  😉

 

Elly Mackay – If You Hold a Seed

A beautiful story about a boy and a tree as they grow up together. Dream big!

Watch Mackay’s fascinating process for creating her papercut illustrations here.

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Kevin Sheehan – The Dandelion’s Tale

One of my favourite children’s picture books in recent years. (I previously mentioned it on my other blog The Door is Ajar -click here).

 

What are your favourite gardening or garden-related books for children?

Go-to gardening books for the Prairies (and beyond!)

Wow!  It feels like spring has sprung here today!  What little snow we had is melting like crazy and we actually had a bit of rain early this morning.  My co-workers and I spent our coffee break talking about starting some tomato seeds and maybe we were a little sugar-buzzed from the pre-Valentine’s Day chocolates and too much coffee, but things got really cheerful…yeah, we’re definitely excited and inspired.  😉

We still have about two (conservative estimate) or three (more like it) months to go before we can get out into the garden proper, but it’s nice to haul out the gardening books and catalogues and get cracking on the planning. I have a few gardening books in my personal collection and regulars I borrow from the library that are definite go-to’s for me.  For the most part, these are all “Prairie” books (hardiness zones 2-4; cold, arid climate), but there are a few more generally Canadian and North American ones that I really love as well.

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Lyndon Penner – The Chinook Short Season Yard: Quick and Beautiful in the Calgary Region (also available as The Prairie Short Season Yard)

Lydon Penner – Garden Design for the Short Season Yard

Dawn Vaessen – Perfect Perennials for the Prairie Gardener (See my review here)

Donna Balzar – Gardening for Goofs

Donna Balzar and Steven Biggs – No Guff Vegetable Gardening

June Flanagan – Native Plants for Prairie Gardens

June Flanagan – Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens

Sara Williams and Hugh Skinner – Gardening, Naturally: A Chemical Free Handbook for the Prairies

Sara Williams – Creating the Prairie Xeriscape

Calgary Horticultural Society – Calgary Gardener, Volumes 1 and 2

Calgary Rose Society – Growing Roses in Calgary  (See my review here)

Millarville Horticultural Society – Gardening Under the Arch

Hugh Skinner – The Best Groundcovers and Vines for the Prairies

Hugh Skinner – The Best Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies

Don Williamson – Tree and Shrub Gardening for Alberta (See my review here)

Barbara Kim and Nora Bryan – The Prairie Winterscape

Nora Bryan and Ruth Staal – The Prairie Gardener’s Book of Bugs (Mentioned here)

Jan Mather – Designing Alberta Gardens

Any of The Prairie Garden annuals

Linda Chalker-Scott – The Informed Gardener

Linda Chalker-Scott – How Plants Work

Niki Jabbour – The Year ‘Round Vegetable Gardener

Niki Jabbour – Groundbreaking Food Gardens

Bill Thorness – Cool Season Gardener

Laura Peters – Small Space Gardening for Canada

Melanie J. Watts – Growing Food in a Short Season

David Bainbridge – Gardening with Less Water

 

Did I miss any cold climate/Prairie books that should be on this list?

No matter where you live in the world, your favourite gardening books might be relevant/practical/inspirational/eye candy for another gardener!  Which books would you recommend for us?